Frozen assets: Ice Park changes hands

Poor, poor ice park. First its parents, Colin Rolph and Lee Danielson, had a nasty and much publicized divorce. Now, just one year after Rolph won sole custody, the park was put up for adoption to the highest bidder. Fortunately, when a new deal closes on July 1, the park will get four adoring parents who say they want only the best for their new baby.

The proud mamas and papas-to-be: Roberta and Bruce Williamson, Ellen Anderson, and Bob Tobey, all locals who say they're thrilled to be keeping the ice park alive.

At a press conference on Monday, May 12, the four want to make one thing clear. "Iceoplex is not coming in to manage the park," Bruce Williamson says, referring to the national company used by Lee Danielson to manage the ice park he owns in Fredericksburg.

"We will be the management team," the four say, nearly in unison, though they acknowledge that personnel matters are still up in the air.

Of the four, three are avid skaters. Bruce Williamson and Tobey, both in their early 50s, play hockey on the men's team at the park. And though Ellen Anderson downplays her skating prowess, when pressed, she does reveal she was once a competitive figure skater who trained under the same coach as 1976 Gold Medalist Dorothy Hamill and often skated with the Olympian. She even remembers the day Hamill showed up to train with a bad perm an event that led to the famous "wedge" hairdo that became all the rage in the late 1970s.

Though no changes at the ice park are definite, the foursome say they plan to expand all of the park's skating programs, including the hockey, figure skating, and synchronized skating programs as well as lessons.

"This is a really great thing for us," says Roberta Williamson. "We're very happy we could make this purchase"– happy in part, they explain, because they had feared that an outside interest would buy the property and ditch the ice park.

Though they won't comment on the purchase price until it becomes public July 1, they are clear about one thing.

"This is an investment," says Bruce Williamson, who's also an attorney. "We're not intending to operate it to line our pockets." The other owners also have income from full-time jobs (Anderson is a consultant, and Tobey is an accountant.)

Colin Rolph and his wife, Dorothy, did not return messages left at their home or at Rolph's office, but there was a time when the pair told many downtowners that keeping the Ice Park open was their "gift" to Charlottesville, and court filings showed that it was not a profitable venture.

Tim Slagle, the property manager for Rolph who represented him at Monday's press conference, says his clients sold the park as part of reorganizing their real estate portfolio. And, he says, the Rolphs are thrilled to have found buyers who will keep the Ice Park chillin'.

The four new owners say they're not worried about the Park's future– despite lurid trial details from the Danielson-Rolph split. At one point, conflicting orders and shouting reduced an accountant to tears. At another, Danielson vowed to close the money-losing Park and its parent company, D&R Development.

"In my mind," Danielson wrote in an email that became part of the trial record, "D&R no longer exists, and I will do everything in my power to have it shut down along with the Ice Park."

When asked how he feels about the sale of the Charlottesville Ice Park, Danielson reveals that his temper has clearly been put on ice.

"I am very pleased for the community," he says. "I'm hopeful that the new ownership will enjoy a new measure of success that I have found in the Fredericksburg Ice Park."

The four new owners believe they, too, will find an icy success.

"This is not a facility that's doomed to lose money," insists Bruce Williamson. "We looked at the numbers."

"None of us would have gotten into this," Tobey pipes up, "if we didn't believe it could be profitable."


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